I was technically an adult long before I was actually an adult. The legal age where I grew up was 18, so I could legally go to a bar and get completely obliterated before I finished high school, had sex, or knew anything about anything.
It’s been a few years since then. I have lived on my own, moved around the world, got schooled (in school and in life,) and had my little heart expand like Grinch on Christmas Day and break like Humpty Dumpty off the wall. All of this has given me the confidence to say: I know how to be an adult!
Just because I know how doesn't mean I am one, consistently. I eat popcorn for dinner more than an adult should, and in general, I’m pretty immature. I mean, I keep a clown nose in my purse to entertain babies in line at the grocery store when their moms aren’t looking.
I am not exactly the pinnacle of adulthood, however, I do know some things, and since lists make the world wide web go around, I’ve complied one to help you determine if you are an adult, or at least on the path to becoming one. I’d like to point out, before you do, that I do not meet all of my own “adult” requirements, but it’s nearly a New Year, and it’s important to have goals.
Adults should know how to:
1. Start A Fire
I’m talking about contained, safe fire, of course.
My family went camping A LOT when I was a growing up, and my dad, always the lecturer, was keen to teach my sister and me how to light a fire. Basically, you take some bunched up newspaper, place it around and under little bits of wood, add a flame, let it grow, then place a bigger log in the mix and you’re done. That is the extent of the fire-starting knowing my brain could retain, which isn’t bad considering I mostly pranced around the campsite pretending I was Sheera while my dad was teaching fire lessons.
Little did I know, my fire knowledge would be put to the test 20 years later. Last year, I lived in an apartment with a wood-burning oven in the middle of the living room. The place had an electric heating system, but it was expensive to run and didn’t work well, so the fire was the most practical way to get warm.
Unfortunately, the flue was a punk, and even if it was open, after lighting a fire the air wouldn’t get sucked up and out, and instead the smoke would start seeping out of the oven and into our apartment. We’d have to open the windows in the middle of January in Toronto to get the smoke out and it always smelled like campfire inside. The fact that I failed countless times at lighting that fire didn’t detract me from my nagging quest to get warm and cozy with a book next to the fire oven. After crying on the phone to my dad while choking on smoke clouds, I finally got the hang of the fire. We figured out that patience was the fire-starting ingredient I lacked.
Fire starting is a good skill to have if you ever find yourself in the wilderness, in a cabin, or in someone’s freezing apartment in downtown Toronto that randomly houses a wood burning oven.
Whether you’re a wallflower or the first to volunteer yourself for body shots, all adults should know how to turn on the charm when needed. I was born with an Italian bitchface that looks kind of mean unless I’m smiling big, which makes me not completely approachable, so I will use my #winning personality to make you like me. To me, charm isn’t about being fake and over the top, it’s about being kind, warm and making people feel good. And flirting is fun!
I actually enjoy flirting with girls more than boys because we’re forming a fledgling friendship without possibility of sex hovering like a giant penis suspended from the ceiling.
Bonding with people in social settings elevates the mood and makes you and whoever you’re talking to feel nice. If you’re shy not just not a natural charmer, you can learn to be by giving people thoughtful and sincere compliments on their: personality, hair, clothing, musical tastes, et cetera. Also, take an interest in what the person you're talking to does and likes. Telling funny, self-deprecating stories is always a good way endear yourself to people.
Sometimes you meet people that are impervious to your charms. Move on. It’s their loss.
3. Boost A Car
“Step aside boys,” I said, zigzagging through a group of 18-year-old men, jumper cables in hand. Our car died on the highway, but luckily we always travelled in packs, and a dead battery wasn’t going to end our crazy fun night of driving from parking lot to parking lot to smoke weed. My friend Greg had jumper cables in his car, but no one knew how to use them, so I volunteered.
I had never boosted a dead car battery before, but by 17, I’d listened to my dad give enough lectures about life and general mechanics that I felt pretty confident in my abilities.
As soon as both cars were turned off, it started to rain and everyone except Greg and me sought shelter. He stood over me saying, “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” as I went about attaching the clamps to the batteries in proper order.
I instructed the driver of the working car to turn it on, and after a few minutes, I told him to turn it off. Then we turned the dead car on and voila! It worked.
My first time jumping a car was a raging success and I was regarded with iconic respect by the male species for the rest of the evening. I was their Michael Corelone that night.
Whether you want to be a hero, or just have some good ol car knowledge on hand in case of emergency, here is how to boost a car battery (via The Globe and Mail):
- Position the working car next to the car with the dead battery. Make sure they're close enough for the cables to reach both batteries, but not touching.
- Turn off the engine in both cars, and turn off all accessories
- Find the positive and negative posts on both batteries. The positive usually has a red positive sign.
- Attach the booster cables - making sure the ends never touch
- Make sure the connections are solid and don't cross the terminals.
- Attach the RED clamp to the positive post on the dead battery
- Put the other red clamp on the positive post on working battery
- Black clamp to neg post on working battery
- Black clamp on negative post on the dead battery.
- Fire up the engine on the working vehicle, letting it run for a few minutes. Then turn off the engine. Never attempt to start the other vehicle while the good vehicle is still running.
- Start the vehicle with the dead battery. Let it run for a few minutes so it can fully recharge.
- Remove the booster cables in the reverse order
- Store your booster cables in your car at all times.
4. Live Poor
I don’t want you to be poor, and if you’ve never had to watch your pennies, then congratulations, you can buy dinner. Knowing HOW to live poor is a skill I think adults should have.
My family wasn’t po’ poor, but I grew up tearing paper towel sheets in half and saving pieces of cellophane for multiple uses.
My parents taught us how to get by with little, to reduce, reuse, recycle, and to still enjoy and have a full life.
What you learn as a kid is invaluable, but that doesn’t mean it sticks when you’re on your own. I lived way beyond my means while living with a man who had grown up very privileged and had no idea or want to budget or do without, and we got into serious debt. After getting that dirt off my shoulder, I’m not perfect, but I’m much better at trying to save where I can and not relying on plastic to outfit a lifestyle I can’t afford.
I’m not always terrific with money, but I try to do little things like eat at home, avoid malls unless I really need something, and pay in cash. Living within or below your means will serve you well if you want to be a freelance writer, but it’s also good for life in general because shit happens, money comes and goes, and making do with what you have is an important part of surviving as an adult.
5. Care For A Being Other Than Yourself
I’ve flushed more than a few deceased goldfish down the toilet in my day, but that didn’t deter me from getting a dog with my boyfriend a few years ago. She was a sweetie pie mutt who looked like a small black lab with a white chest stripe, and I named her Zeppelin and loved her to bits. My boyfriend at the time was rarely home, so the majority of the dog responsibility fell on me.
I cared for Zeppelin like she was my child. Dogs require a lot of attention, especially if you live in a condo like I did. I took her to the park everyday to run around, and out for little walks at least twice a day. I fed her, cleaned up after her, took her to the vet when she was sick, and tried hard to train her not to pull when I walked her. I’d get incredibly frustrated when my boyfriend would let the dog pull while he walked her, thereby undoing all of my training, because he was big and it didn’t bother him. It was actually very telling, because if he didn’t care that the dog, who was part Rottweiler, would drag me around like a ragdoll, he probably didn’t really care about me in other ways, too. (He didn’t.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the dog after our awful breakup, mostly because I was scared of my ex, but it’s been five years and I still think of her almost every day. Being responsible for another living being is a challenging and enriching experience, and one that adults should have at some point.
6. Have A Skill Or Career To Fall Back On
I wrote an article for Glamour a few years back about talking finances in dating, and I spoke to finance guru Suze Orman for it. She was obviously a wealth of information on financial tips for dating, but she also stressed how important it is for women in relationships to have their own money. Even if you are in a relationship or married to someone who can and does take care of you, you should have career to fall back on, or a financial plan for if you split up. This isn’t pessimism or “worst case scenario” thinking, it’s being a smart and looking after yourself.
7. Take A Joke
Before freelance writing helped me develop alligator skin, I used to get pretty easily offended. I’m very sensitive, and very aware, which can be a disastrous combination.
This dates back to third grade, when I was totally humiliated after my classmate Grant looked at my bare legs and declared: “Carla, you have more hair on your legs than me! Hahahaha!” I totally ran away and cried.
There’s nothing worse than being a pouty sourpuss over a joke, even if it is a stupid, mean joke. Better to let it slide, or to have a comeback. If I could go back to grade 3, I’d probably yell at Grant, “you and your hairless legs are going to want to date me in ten years and I will reject your pale ass! Hahahaha!”
With age I learned that if was going to be able to bestow my lowly, sarcastic humor on the world, I damn well better be able to handle it when the world throws it back at me.
Learning how to take a joke, and deal with people who are trying to get under your skin, is a skill adults should learn. How? I don’t know. Watch comedians, learn how funny works, and make it work for you. If all else fails, carry a clown nose in your purse for dire situations.
8. Drive On Ice (Or In Other Extreme Weather)
I was recently home for Christmas—home being Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where it sometimes snows in May. Growing up there, I would pretty regularly drive through blizzards, hail storms, flash floods, and on black ice. Although I haven’t driven in five years, due to living in subway-friendly cities, I was quickly thrust back into the winter driving game upon my return. Driving on icy roads is a terrifying experience, and one that requires acute attention, skill, and a little bit of luck.
Adults should know how to handle bad weather driving, and if you can’t, at least do other drivers a favor and pull over instead of melting down and driving like an ass.
Double fist pump if you drive standard because that means you can pretty much drive anything, anywhere in the world.
I realize that there are many people who’ve never felt the urge to operate a metal death trap on wheels, and therefore don’t drive. These people are sane, and I salute them.
9. Give CPR
I learned CPR when I was 12-years-old, so it’s safe to say I need a refresher course for 2014. If shit goes south and someone is dying in front of me, I don't want to be the person standing there screaming: “SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING!!!”
10. Change A Diaper
Baby shit is pretty disgusting. It’s runny and it smells gross. Sometimes, the diaper doesn’t even contain the poo and it gets all over the baby’s back and legs, and then he squirms and some of it flies into your hair. Boy babies also think it’s fun to pee on you when you’re wiping their bums.
Still, being able to change a diaper means you’re cleaning up after the smallest, most innocent beings among us, and that is an honorable thing that adults should know how to do.
11. Cook At Least One Go-To Meal
Mine is risotto with veal scaloppini and green beans. If I am trying to impress you, I will make this because it’s really the only thing I know I can make really well, no matter what. I’m not advocating for all adults to know their way around the kitchen; some of us take to the stove like Lidia Bastianich, and others favor the eating and only the eating. That’s cool.
Having one go-to meal is good if you find yourself hosting a dinner party, or wanting to cook something for your parents, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, or whoever. Everyone loves a home cooked meal, so master one—just one—and I declare you an adult!*
Do you agree with this list? Tell me what else you think adults should know how to do.
*I have absolutely no authority to do this.